Friday, 16 June 2017

Album Review: Melodrama by Lorde

Save us Ella Yelich-O'Connor, you're our only hope

As a middle class father from New Zealand with a Twitter account and a blog, I knew it was my expected civic duty to have an opinion on the new Lorde album. This follow up to Pure Heroine had been teased about for months, with an epic and anticlimactic scavenger hunt around Auckland announcing the first single leading into a word puzzle where fans were invited to guess the album title from the first and last letters.

My guess was M£*#€@$&%?~A

Then came the artwork. A clear reference to Picasso's Blue Period.

We're Blue, da ba dee, da ba da ba da ba dee da ba da

Unless anyone can think of another artist who works with such beautifully shadowed brushstrokes?

Well, maybe we all DID misunderestimate him

It all led to today's climax, the release of Melodrama. Was New Zealand ready? Was
it ever. The nation had been left rudderless and without a leader since the resignation of beloved figurehead Richie McCaw, and without a cultural touchstone since Peter Jackson had run out of  Tolkien books to adapt into lengthy and pointless films . Even our country's defining moment in the history of handshakes has been eclipsed by the British.

Bring on our new Lorde, our saviour.

I fired up Spotify (free edition), typed in Melodrama, and let rip. And what a ripper. Lorde clearly corners her targeted market of middle aged men who have procreated right off the bat, starting with the lead single Green Light. It's a dad joke that easily wins my heart! We know this song, it's been everywhere. I last heard it being blasted by a DJ resembling an alpaca who's career had reached the heights of playing at an Australian Burgerfuel at 6pm on a Friday. The dancing on cars, the pianos in toilets, the kissing on light up dance floors, it's got the New Zealand experience written all over it, and we love it.

Track 2, Sober, sounds similar, the mellow start leading eventually into a banger of a chorus, but something is wrong... Can a song called Sober really describe the New Zealand? Surely Lorde knows that it's not the drinking, it's how we're drinking, and no amount of minimising that and claiming to be sober is not going to alter New Zealand's sorry rate of alcohol related injuries?

Also, I don't think you're truly sober if you're reviewing onion rings that look like this, Ella

We carry on, every song a certified New Zealand grown platinum hit. Or almost every song. I listen to Louvre, expecting to hear a soaring masterpiece, reminiscent of crystal pyramids and fine arts, but something's wrong. Sure, there's the odd highlight, but something doesn't quite feel right. Then it hit me,  this is exactly what Lorde meant it to mean. This isn't a song describing the Louvre as a cultural custodian of Europe's finest sculptures, paintings and artefacts. It's meant to bring to mind the Louvre as experienced by an 18 year old antipodean backpacker, rushing through the corridors, before pausing briefly to appreciate a work of genius they've only heard about until now through schoolbooks. A work of high intellect, this is captured perfectly by Lorde, who, it seems, is not aiming for a global hit album accessible to her fellow countrymen and women, but producing for the world a true insight into what it is to be a New Zealander.

Liability, in contrast, serves as a stark warning to her country of birth, against using the teenaged songstress as the basis for its entire cultural identity:

I understand, I'm a liability
Get you wild, make you leave
I'm a little much for
E-a-na-na-na, everyone

Indeed, what happens when it does get us wild, when Lorde does get a little much for everyone? We love her, but Melodrama does contain, for example, explicit language, words only previously acceptable in everyday use in middle New Zealand if used after a tough rugby match or climbing a very tall mountain. Is it wise to hitch our cultural wagon to a young girl who may turn out to be such a loose linguistic cannon?

Before long, I found myself I found myself listening to the last track of the album, Perfect Places, a song title that surely described any place you had access to this record for your auditory perusal. Time had flown, I'd had fun. Then it struck me how familiar this song sounded. The tune, the lyrics, they were essentially the same as an untitled secret track after song three, minus a few spoken lyrics:

Hi this is Lorde
You can listen to my
New album
Here on Spotify

Genius. It was the ultimate musical callback, playing on themes already expressed in the album and I loved it. This is why Lorde is such a treasure, inserting little jokes into her music, revisiting them later on in the record. Sure, she's a liability at times with the odd F-bomb, but this is why as a nation we are happy to have her as a global ambassador, a truly worthy heir to our other great Lord, of the Rings.

Overall, 14 stars out of 10. Get used to it New Zealand, this record is our national identity until at least the 2019 RWC.